TOLEDO, Ohio — After more than two years of spiking violent crime in Toledo, many in the city are asking what can be done to address the wave of shootings and other violence.
Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz has said that the majority of violence in Toledo is related to gang activity. Now, WTOL 11 is speaking exclusively with one of the leaders of the police unit charged specifically with taking on gangs to get insights into how these dangerous groups operate and what Toledo police are doing to address the violence they perpetrate.
Sgt. Mel Stachura with the Toledo Police Department's gang task force said Toledo is home to anywhere between 30 and 37 gangs, but some stand above the others as the most powerful in the city.
"Major gangs, I mean we have Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, also known as the Folks, we have those," Stachura said.
Stachura said even as shootings and arrests reduce their ranks, gangs in Toledo include anywhere from 100 to 200 strongly active members at any given time. Stachura said these groups make their money in two major ways.
"We know a lot of these gangs proliferate through sales of drugs, because that's the fast, easy money, but the bigger thing is to get guns. Because that's the big problem right now with the city of Toledo is youth getting guns and they get them quickly," Stachura said.
Stachura said gang members will get guns by any means necessary, including breaking into people's homes and businesses to steal them, such as the Towers Armory Burglary in 2019.
He said right now there are more high-powered weapons on the streets than ever, and the people he sees using them are younger than ever. He described one particularly disturbing incident involving a group of 12-year-olds caught with seven weapons.
"Six kids had seven guns," Stachura said. "One was an AK pistol, one was an AK rifle, one was an SKS, and then two AR-15s. So out of seven guns, six of them are high-powered rifles, and these were carried by 12-year-olds."
And these new, younger gang members aren't the same kind of gangsters Satchura was working with a decade ago. He said even the older generation of hardened criminals has noticed a dangerous change in the culture, and it's making life cheap.
"Before, there was respect," Stachura said. "If you were an older gang member, you were respected, that's what it was. Just a little bit of respect. Now there's no respect. You can be a gang member that's 14, 15 and you're going to make a name for yourself because you're shooting this known person."
Stachura said this new kind of criminal doesn't care who they shoot at, and will even shoot into crowds or groups. This means more innocent victims are getting shot.
Homicide rates in the city skyrocketed in the last two years. In 2021, Toledo saw 70 homicides and in 2020 the city recorded 62 homicides. So far this year there have been 18 homicides in Toledo.
Stachura said if you begin to see a fight break out in your neighborhood and you're concerned it could be gang activity, you should call the police before it's too late.
If you have any information that may help police regarding a crime in Toledo, call or text Crime Stoppers at 419-255-1111. You can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.
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